Monday, September 28, 2015

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a PLAY!

To Act or Not to Act
by Hilde Garcia

Say the word "theatre" at my elementary school and there's a mad dash for my classroom as students knock each other down hoping to make it into my Drama class.

Why the drama? Well, the shows I produce are fun and the kids love them.  My first year, we did The Canterbury Tales with 41 kids. Then it caught on and I had 70 sign up for the next production. Holy guacamole! So I did a monologue showcase entitled, One Singular Sensation. And then I had to do it, it killed me, but I held auditions for the Spring.

We premiered Wagon Wheels A Rollin'- a hootin', tootin' western with only a mere cast of 45.  And 15 had group lines, but they wanted in no matter what, so there came the town of Vinegar Bottle!
I had to turn away the other 30.

My daughter in Wagon Wheels.
I just love the tin type.

So why all the hoopla for drama? Well, we think kids don't want to speak or perform in this age of texting and Facebooking, but truth be told? They are hams, each and every last one of them. That hasn't gone away, only our commitment to developing those skills.

The real drama is that for today's youth, speaking out loud is not a skill that is developed, not at home, not in school, and certainly not on the play ground.  They have so much trouble expressing themselves, role playing, pretending.  If it isn't in front of a screen, they don't know what to do.

Yet, when my students are reading in their literature book and they come to a "play" selection in the book, their hands shoot up in the air until, I fear, they have left their arm socket. How can that be?

My students love to read, but they also love to speak, to perform. And when they come across meaningful literature that is written in a play format, they really relish it.

When we write for young audiences, do we even consider this genre?

I know we write fiction and many of us even do non-fiction. We have picture books, graphic novels, edgy YA, middle grade series, fantasy, poetry, and books in verse, but where are the plays?

This week I spent about 50 hours rewriting many fairy tales- I love fracturing a good fairy tale- so I could create 75 roles for my 75 actors who managed to make it into my class. That's mostly because no matter what limit I set for the class, I seem to always go over it.  Sigh, I just can't say no when there is such a need for developing speech, presence, confidence, and imagination.

What I do find is that the plays out there from various publishing sites are indeed fairy tales, old legends, or fables, and our kids today are over the whole princess thing. They want more.

Last year, I did a play- a monologue showcase with 70 kids. I wove them together with a through line that ended up being a kid's soapbox.  It was great and I wanted to do a scene showcase like it this year.

The only problem, the scenes I could find were from sophisticated plays that weren't actually appropriate for elementary school. Just because it had a child in the scene, doesn't mean we can actually do the scene.  The students don't have the social context for it.  There was really very little out there. And what was out there needed to be edited, so I simply begged my husband, an excellent writer, and we "created" a play.

It made me think- what plays haven't I written, that would really make a difference for kids today? What plays haven't YOU written?

Maybe parts of your current MS could work as a play. Or maybe you can take something that is important to kids today and make it into a dialogue.

No matter what, I realized that we do have this rich format that appeals to children, and we would be remiss if we didn't explore it!

D. W. Griffiths has nothing on me! It's showtime!
The Cast of Wagon Wheels a Rollin'
May 2015


  1. Excellent point. I've written terse, serious plays. Nothing for kids. Maybe I'll write play for my cats.
    Stage Cookie

    1. And then you can film it and make millions on You Tube


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